Death of a Raven
And so it ended here. Koron lay; hands and knees on the rocky ground, panting. His father’s hammer lay shattered before him, the head scattered around, shards of it embedded in his armour and helm. The still smoking shaft was clutched in his left hand.
Koron raised his free hand to his head, choosing to breathe his last with the sun on his brow and the wind on his cheek, as he had so many years ago as the son of a smith. With a faint hiss, his helm came free, thrown to the ground by his feet. Pushing himself up, Koron rose to his knees, to looks at the man before him.
He stood, legs crossed with a toe to the earth, leaning negligently on his pole arm. His chainmail cloaks flapped gently in the breeze, tinkling as metal met metal. A glowing gold sigil lit his right arm, contrasting sharply with the blue and green armour. A faint smile creased his lips, the warmth struggling to meet his deadened eyes. When he spoke, his words seemed lighter than before, as though he had finally met an unknowable goal.
“Well, Koron, I must say I’m faintly disappointed. Whatever happened to “duty unto death’?”
Koron bit beck his retort, waiting for this Warplord to end his life. The plasma gun affixed to his weapon glowed a deep green, while the energised blade shimmered softly.
“I see you are unwilling to rise to my bait... And you have given in to death already. Perhaps I was wrong in my choice...” He seemed faintly disappointed, like his favourite student had failed him in a simple test.
“I do not rise to your bait, Traitor,” Koron pronounced the word with a sneer of deepest contempt, “Because it is beneath me. And you may have defeated me this day, but you to shall fall.” Koron drew himself to his full height, all be it remaining on his knees.
For a moment the chaos lord seemed elated, before a look of solemn determination overcame his face. For moment he seemed caught on the edge of indecision, before an almost imperceptible nod set his face.
Koron simply stared at him dumbly as the Legionary knelt down to retrieve an unused weapon, a crude chainaxe, and threw it towards the Blood Raven. Koron flinched to the side, combat reactions overcoming pride, as the weapon landed neatly in front of him. Looking up, he saw a sneer once more playing upon the chaos marine’s features. Koron reached forwards for the weapon, eyes still on the Chaos Marine, once more leaning on his halberd. Stepping to his feet, he faced the serenely smiling marine, rage pounding through his mind at the arrogant Legionary stood uncaring before him.
They stood like this for a moment, eyes meeting in silent challenge, before the moment broke. With a roar of pure hatred, Koron launched himself forwards, axe descending towards the figures unarmoured head. For the brief moment while the roaring chainblade descended, Koron was sure he saw fear in his opponent’s eyes.
And then, the blade stopped. It did not bounce off, as if it met an energy field, nor did it slow as if moving through thrice-cursed Eldar shadow fields. It simply stopped, even down to the revving chainblade. Koron stared at it, transfixed, reminded of nothing so much as when he had helped his father to chop wood. The axe had become firmly wedged in one oversized piece, and his father had been forced to spend an hour working it free. Koron stood now, as unable to move the axe as he was then. After a moment of dumb silence, Koron thought to drop the axe.
He couldn’t. Try though he might, Koron was completely unable to release the handle. Or move his arm, his shoulder, his body, anything. Gripped by sudden fear, Koron looked across at the Warplord, cursing himself for falling prey to his opponent’s treachery. The look of fear in his opponent’s eyes was replaced by one of firm conviction and, regret? Koron tried to shake himself free of such empathy, but was still unable to move.
“You have faced the challenge, and I find you wanting,” the sad smile had returned to his face, and his voice seemed genuinely morose. “Look across at your brothers, dying around you. And yet, you feel no sadness do you? No remorse. Yet you try to kill me. Why? Wrath. It is your vice, and it is wasted on a corpse. Why should you serve a chapter you hate? A God,” his figures twisted in bitterness as he said this, “you don’t believe in. An Imperium dying before you were born – a bloated corpse kept from dying only by the efforts of those who deserve better. Once more, I ask, will you join me?” As they had, when they first met, all those years ago, Epsilus Sancrenus, the Chosen and Abandoned, held his right hand towards Koron.
Looking around himself, at his brothers dying, Koron found himself unable to deny any of Warplord’s accusations. Lifting his eyes to those of his opponent, he spoke the words which changed his future forever.
At once, Koron felt the chains that held him dropped to the ground, the axe in his hands thudding to the grounds as he dropped it, clutching his head in agony. As he screamed at the voices pounding in mind, he thought he heard Epsilus speaking, but was too overcome by pain to know. After a moment that lasted an eternity, the pain receded, taking the voices with it. Looking up, he saw Epsilus stood over him for the second time in as many minutes, hand now raised to offer help. Waving him off, Koron staggered to his feet. He stood, panting for a minute, before he turned to the silent Warplord.
“What... what did you... did you say?”
Epsilus smiled sadly at him, eyes as dead as ever. “It matters not. Shall we Koron?” he indicated a path to the descending dropships, come to collect the victors.
“No,” Koron shook his head from side to side as Epsilus frowned at him, confused. After a moment, Koron continued. “Koron was a fool. He was a slave to those he hated. I am Korak, and I shall have blood.” Korak smiled madly at Epsilus, before leading the way towards the ships, his father’s smoking haft still clutched in his hand.